Health Plans Walk The Walk By Promoting Employee Wellness

by Darcy Lewis

April 20, 2017

Everyone wants a healthier workplace: Employees want to know their employer cares about their wellness. Companies, meanwhile, have learned that giving workers the tools to improve their health pays off in terms of improved morale and reined in health care costs.

Health plans know what works when designing employee wellness programs. Here’s a look at the highly regarded efforts of three health plans that help their employees achieve wellness goals.

Humana Stands Out

Bold Goal, Humana’s employee wellness plan, is true to the name. Its aim: “becoming 20 percent healthier by 2020.”

Humana measures progress using Healthy Days, a health management tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Healthy Days is a simple, four question survey that records how a person feels physically and mentally.

The key metric is how many “unhealthy days” an employee experiences within a 30-day period. In 2015, Humana’s 50,000 participating employees reported 6.1 unhealthy days per month. In 2016, that rate dropped to 5.2 unhealthy days. Employees have already achieved the 2017 goal of 4.9 unhealthy days, reports the company.

In 2016, Humana was one of 13 companies to win the National Business Group on Health’s (NGBH) Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles® award at the platinum level. According to the NGBH, platinum winners are recognized for “implementing a workforce well-being strategy with demonstrated results” – such as its 100 Day Dash step competition.

Bold Goal has been so successful that Humana expanded it beyond its own employees to include seven U.S. cities, each of which partners with community organizations to focus on a different aspect of health such as food insecurity or health literacy.

USAA: Take Care of Your Health

For 15 years, USAA has been known for its best-in-class employee wellness program, Take Care of Your Health. In a 2015 article, professors from the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at Johns Hopkins University note that the program combines activities, environmental supports, and incentives. This enticing mix consistently draws a whopping 85 percent employee participation.

USAA offers onsite health clinics and a pharmacy at headquarters, not to mention a 24-hour onsite fitness center with subsidized rates that drop the more often the employee works out. The fitness center is well-equipped down to the workout wear that’s included.

Buildings include relaxation zones throughout, so fitness equipment, ping pong, pool, and foosball tables are never far from reach. The USAA main campus features outdoor areas for active recreation, too, including trails, tennis courts, basketball courts, and a soccer field.

The company launched a Healthy Points program in 2011 in which employees earn credits by participating in health promotion activities. They then redeem points for premium reductions in their medical coverage.

Highmark Health Gets Noticed

In 2016, Highmark Health was one of only two companies to receive first-time Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles award recognition from the NBGH in the gold category. This award recognizes organizations with a “strong commitment to holistic well-being and related metrics.”

At Highmark, its program is loaded with environmental supports that emphasize health in a meaningful way. For example, it has an onsite employee health center that offers same-day sick appointments, physical therapy, and pharmacy services.

It also offers fitness center access for all employees at no charge. The secure bicycle parking and shower and locker facilities make it easy for employees to incorporate fitness into the workday. Similar to USAA, they also offer an incentive program that rewards participants with reduced health insurance premiums.

What all three health plans have in common is that they designed programs that suit their corporate culture, consistently emphasize the importance of employee wellness, and have achieved measurable results.